Helping children with behaviour problems

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Schwartz, C., Waddell, C., Barican, J., Andres, C., & Gray-Grant, D. (2016). Helping children with behaviour problems. Children’s Mental Health Research Quarterly, 10(1), 1–20. Vancouver, BC: Children’s Health Policy Centre, Faculty of Health Sciences, Simon Fraser University.

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Background: An estimated 2.4% of children experience oppositional defiant disorder (ODD), which is characterized by argumentative behaviours and frequent losses of temper. Conduct disorder (CD), which includes aggression and other serious rule violations, affects approximately 2.1% of young people. Effective interventions can substantially improve the wellbeing of these young people.

Methods: We used systematic review methods to identify randomized control trials (RCTs) evaluating interventions for children with behavioural disorders. Applying our inclusion criteria to the 82 studies identified from our searches, we accepted eight RCTs.

Results: We identified one parenting program — Incredible Years — that reduced ODD diagnoses. We also found two programs child and family programs that were effective. Project Support reduced CD/ODD diagnosis while Multidimensional Treatment Foster Care reduced symptoms of delinquency. While the medication quetiapine reduced behaviour problems, it was associated with significant side effects.

Conclusions: Given the effectiveness of psychosocial interventions in addressing clinically significant behaviour problems, they should always be offered to families first. Interventions need to include parents and teach effective parenting techniques, such as paying attention to good behaviour as well as using praise and rewards. Medication should be used as a last resort for children with behavioural disorders.

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